Thursday, September 10, 2009

What it's like to work from home

So, I've been working remotely for about seven months now, and so far, on balance, I like it, and I LOVE the convenience of it, though there are definitely some trade-offs.

For me, it's absolutely working out and I foresee staying in this job for a long time. But I cannot imagine STARTING a job remotely. Part of why it's worked out for me is because I've been with the same coworkers for two years and had very good working relationships established before I moved away.

So, here's what working remotely has been like for me:
  • I am really productive. Editing requires complete silence and concentration. At the office, that was sometimes difficult if someone nearby were on the phone, or someone stopped by for a chat. At home, I have my perfect conditions for completing my work efficiently. Love.
  • I don't have to deal with as much trivial stuff. People can't just drop by anymore, so they tend to only call or email when they have a real question or issue. I find myself answering many fewer questions related to computers or formatting, for example. This frees up my time and prevents me from breaking my concentration, but I did enjoy the interaction and breaks provided by these sorts of interludes. Love/hate.
  • I eat much more healthily, because I have my whole kitchen available to me, and no restaurants. Love.
  • I don't have a commute. This means I can sleep later in the morning and have more time in the evenings. This is one of the most amazing perks ever. Love.
  • I have a more flexible schedule. As long as I put in my billable hours and get all my work done well and on time, my boss is totally flexible about if I want to go to the gym in the AM, for example, and then work later in the PM to make up for it. I haven't really taken advantage of this much, but it's nice to know it's an option. Love.
  • I don't have to buy work clothes, which is especially good now that I'm losing weight. Sometimes I miss the excuse to pull myself together in a nice skirt and top and look polished, but mostly I'm thankful for the financial savings. Love.
  • People sometimes forget to call me into meetings. When it's one of those pointless, neverending meetings that is a giant mindsuck, I secretly feel relieved when they forget me. But for the most part this is frustrating and makes me feel disconnected. And I am scared to call in because conference rooms and meeting times get switched constantly and I'm always afraid of calling into a room full of strangers and interrupting an important meeting. Hate.
  • It's hard to get a read on people. If I send an assignment to someone and they don't send me feedback shortly thereafter, I start wondering if they hated my work and are trying to figure out what to do about it. Not running into people in the halls and having friendly casual conversations means it's harder for me to know what people are thinking. And often, especially if I've done an assignment right the first time, people will forget to give me feedback at all, and I will have to ask to find out what they thought, or never find out at all. Hate.
  • Along these lines, I have to be a lot pushier about work I need other people to do for me. If I'm managing something and I need someone else to do something to make it happen, I have to keep up a steady barrage of emails and phone calls to make sure it happens on time. This makes sense because everyone is slammed with a million competing priorities and out of sight means out of mind, but it can still be frustrating when I have a client breathing down my neck. Hate.
  • I haven't met new staff members yet and therefore have to try to work out a relationship with them via email. This is especially awkward if I have to push on something--whether it's asking someone I've never met to prioritize a task for me, or telling someone I've never met that I won't be able to do something they're requesting in the specified time frame due to other assignments. Hate.
  • I'm out of the loop in terms of some of the stuff that I used to just pick up on naturally through casual conversation in the hall, overheard phone discussions, etc. I used to be very connected to all the little things that were going on but never announced, and now I rely pretty much exclusively on my boss to keep me posted on this stuff. Hate.
  • On the flip side, I have a better relationship with my boss. Before, we bumped into each other in the hall all the time but rarely made time for a face to face meeting unless there was a specific issue that needed to be discussed. I kept her up to date on my work via weekly email summaries. Now, since I'm far away, we make a point to have a weekly phone check-in. We talk not just about work but also about any interesting things that are happening in the office, our personal lives (to a certain extent), and general work issues and questions that we never would have made time to discuss if I were still in DC. Love.
So overall... not only do the loves outnumber the hates, but the loves are also mostly weightier, more important issues than the hates. For me, working from home is absolutely worth the minor annoyances that come along with it. Yes, the things I'm struggling with can be frustrating, but with a really supportive boss and group of coworkers, we're making it work. And I hope to keep making it work for a very long time.


  1. I worked from home for almost a year and loved it. Sure, like you said, there were downsides, like not socializing with people and the fact that I was a new hire, so I didn't know anyone at the main office. But the positives definitely outweighed the bad. I loved working in my pj's. :)

  2. Sounds like a good balance. I have the option to work at home on some days - and I don't get as much done. I'm sure that's because I don't have the setup since it's not an all-the-time gig.

  3. I would love to have a work from home job. Especially with kids and their schedules, it would make my life so much easier. Unfortunately, my current job would not translate well to not being in the office.

    It's harder, but you can build relationships with people you've never met. With the campus being so large, there are people I "know" very well and work with often, but have never actually met face to face. One of them came to a ceremony for an award I was receiving and we hugged as if we were long lost friends.

  4. I would like to work from home, but my job would make that nearly impossible as I have to take direct requests from people walking in the office all the time.

    It's awesome that you have the opportunity to do this though.

  5. I love the idea of working from home for me, but sadly, I don't think I have the discipline to do it. I can see myself trying to do laundry or the dishes while on a conference call and that would not be good!
    So glad that it's working out wonderfully for you, though!

  6. i love the CONCEPT of working from home. and i REALLY LOVE the fact that it's an option for me (on days like today, where i REALLY REALLY am not interested in driving 45 mins to/from work after my episode yesterday!!). but overall i find that i'm too social of a person to work from home regularly. i get SO LONELY. maybe it would be different if i had a husband here with me? but with just me & the cats, i'm desperately craving interpersonal interaction by 5p if i've been home alone all day.

  7. I've had the luxury of working from home a few days each week. And I completely echo pretty much all of your loves/hates about working from home. That's why I better appreciate the days I'm in the office AND the days I'm at home.

  8. I commend you for doing such a great job working from home. I don't know that I could do it. It's be too tempted by tv and naps.

  9. This is so good to hear. I've had discussions with my bosses and they tell me that I should be able to work from home within the next year. In some ways this is so exciting but I'm also nervous. You've really reassured me, so thanks!

  10. I admire your willpower. I know I'm not the work at home sort - home is for play, work is for work. If I tried to work from home I'd end up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, watching the latest season of True Blood. Not so great for making money!

  11. I'm glad to hear that working from home works for you. I don't know if I could do it. Yeah, I'm super productive but I get SO distracted too.

  12. I tried that several years ago and found I didn't have the discipline to actually work instead of doing the things I noticed around the house that I would have never noticed otherwise. Like the dust buildup on the molding or the dirty fingerprints on the doors or the cobweb in the corner, get the drift. I have to get up, get dressed and leave the house to be productive. However that summer I did win YARD OF THE MONTH because I spent plenty of time outside tending to it. Since it was a commission based job we almost went broke...

    I'm happy that this works for you, you are lucky to have the flexibility. I look forward to that flexibility upon retirement, which I really wish would happen sooner than later...

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